A Children's Gift Guide For Undoing Toxic Masculinity

Photo: Courtesy of LEGO.
Jaclyn Friedman is a writer, speaker and activist, and author of Unscrewed: Women, Sex, Power, and How to Stop Letting the System Screw Us All.
If you've got problematic gender roles on the mind as you’re trying to figure out what to give the little ones in your life for the holidays, allow me to call on my experience dismantling the patriarchy to lend a hand.
First, a successful-gifting story from my own life: My partner and I gave our twin nephews a book called Rad American Women A-Z when they were just two years old, and by two and a half they had memorized it and could name women like Dolores Huerta and Kate Bornstein on sight. That’s not just a cool party trick, it’s going to serve as part of the foundation of their ideas about themselves as men.
Advertisement
When boys grow up without identifying with women, when they are allowed to grow into men without understanding that women are complex, three-dimensional people whose stories are just as interesting and valuable as their own, boys grow into a masculinity that inherently conceives of itself as better — and more human — than anyone who expresses femininity. That won't do. And, anyway, when given the chance, anyone can love “girl stuff.”
There are plenty of gifts out there that can help raise kids — boys especially — who think of girls and women as equals.
From books to toys, beauty products, movies, and a bonus for the parents, keep reading to find 20 gifts that the kids you know will actually love. With any luck, they'll use them to build a future with far less despicable masculinity than what we're dealing with right now.
Welcome to Mothership: Parenting stories you actually want to read, whether you're thinking about kids right now or not, from egg-freezing to taking home baby and beyond. Because motherhood is a big if — not when — and it's time we talked about it that wa
1 of 20
Rad American Women A-Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries who Shaped Our History . . . and Our Future!

Get the little ones in your life started right. They'll learn their ABCs by learning to admire everyone from Angela Davis to Zora Neale Hurston, just like my nephews did.
2 of 20
Women of NASA Legos

Every kid digs space, Legos, and pioneering women. Why not get all three in one?
Advertisement
3 of 20
Not Quite Narwhal

Make sure they know you'll love them no matter what with this beautifully illustrated story of Kelp, who never quite fits in with his Narwhal family for a very special reason.
4 of 20
Mister Seahorse

From Eric Carle (of Very Hungry Caterpillar fame), this story follows Mister Seahorse as he visits all the underwater dads who care for babies. (There is one who is referred to as “babysitting,” but you can use that as an opening for conversation about shared labor.)
5 of 20
What Makes A Baby

Cory Silverberg’s friendly book fulfills their curiosity about bodies and babies in a way that normalizes a wide range of birth experiences and genders.
6 of 20
Nail Polish

While not technically a toy, beautifying products can certainly make for some fun play time. Boys will learn that “pretty” isn’t just for girls when they decorate their digits with one (or 20!) of the 300 kid-friendly, non-toxic shades of Zoya polish.
7 of 20
When Sophie Gets Angry — Really, Really Angry…

Get them started on emotional literacy with this story of one girl with a volcanic temper.
Advertisement
8 of 20
Doc McStuffins

She’s a girl of color who is a magical stuffed animal doctor. She’ll teach your kids great health behaviors while also showing them that caring is cool, and girls can be doctors. You need more of a sell?
9 of 20
The Pop Ups

Music you’ll actually enjoy hitting repeat on, with great themes for little ears: On Appetite for Construction, ”Costume Party" tells the story of a little boy who loves wearing a lavender dress. And "Feelings" from Radio Jungle is all about how everyone has all the feelings.
10 of 20
Moana

Do we really have to explain? If you know a wee one who hasn’t received the gift of Moana yet, this is your chance to be a hero.
11 of 20
Kitchen Set

Feeding the family isn’t just “women’s work,” and boys will be happy to get in on the action with this beautiful sturdy wooden kitchen set. Bonus: It’s compact enough to fit in most rooms!
12 of 20
Feelings Playing Cards

These charming playing cards help young kids learn about emotions and empathy while having fun playing up to 12 different card games.
Advertisement
13 of 20
Have You Filled A Bucket Today?

A fun framework for understanding how we can make ourselves and others feel good.
14 of 20
Rainbow Train

If you ever wished there was a modern update to "Free to Be You and Me," this is your album.
15 of 20
Window and Mirror Cleaning Kit

Put ‘em to work! For boys who want to do more than play at helping out around the house, For Small Hands offers all kinds of kid-size gear that really works, like this adorable window washing kit.
16 of 20
The Paperbag Princess

Teach them that even princesses have better things to do than wait around for a man to rescue them. Bonus: Once they fall in love with this charming story, you can tell them they'll soon get to watch it on the big screen.
17 of 20
Baby Doll

Encourage boys’ nurturing side with a doll of their own to care for and cuddle. These one-of-a-kind creations (okay, with a price tag to match) are soft and sturdy, with a satisfying weight, and they come in a wide range of complexions and personalities. Don’t see one your little will like? Check back soon; they post new dolls twice a week.
Advertisement
18 of 20
Fairy Wings

Don’t limit their imaginations by limiting their play wardrobes! Little boys love sparkly tutus and mermaid tails as much as little girls love to be pirates and firefighters. These gorgeous fairy wings will help the kids in your life fly high above gender limitations
19 of 20
My Neighbor Totoro

A capable, caring father is the primary parent to two adventurous girls. Add in dazzling animation, some forest magic, and a lesson in believing in other people even when you can’t see what they’re telling you, and you’ll know why this one’s a classic.
20 of 20
And a bonus for the parents:

Because the number one best way to ensure your kids grow up resistant to toxic masculinity is to make sure they have a great role model in you. My new book, Unscrewed, will help you sort through your own ideas about gender and sexuality while preparing you to help young ones navigate the booby traps and obstacles of our current sexual culture as they grow.
Advertisement

More from Mind

Watch

R29 Original Series